A historic 16th century mill which is the subject of a community-led takeover bid is to be put onto the open market by Leeds City Council.
The Kirkstall Valley Development Trust (KVDT) wants to turn the Grade II listed Abbey Mills into a ‘sustainable living’ education centre and a community cafe.
The Trust earlier failed in a Lottery bid to help push the plan forward, but is carrying on with its campaign after being advised to amend its application.
But, according to a newly approved report, the council is now inviting “expressions of interest” from the open market for the long-term leasehold of the building.
The authority admits huge investment will be needed from whoever takes on the project but the building is in desperate need of a “solution”.
A report just signed off by the council’s economy and regeneration team stresses the importance of “investment to bring forward a new sustainable use is required in order to secure the property’s future”.
It adds: “There are many listed buildings in Leeds and the council has a strong track record of working with developers to deliver long term sustainable solutions.
“Abbey Mills requires a solution. The property has been included on the council’s buildings at risk schedule. Substantial investment needs to be attracted in order to establish a new sustainable use.
“It is proposed that an ‘expressions of interest’ marketing exercise be under taken in the first instance, in order to assess the level of interest in undertaking a refurbishment.”
Kirkstall Labour councillor John Illingworth, who is also a director of KVDT, said the local authority was facing a “massive repair bill” for the mill building, and something has to be done to safeguard its future.
The bill to the taxpayer includes ongoing salary costs for maintenance and administration, he added.
“The mill has been vacant for 12 years. It is losing value. It was in good nick and potentially occupiable but there was a failure to maintain it,” he said.
Coun Illingworth said the latest “soft marketing” exercise was “not a surprise” to the Trust, and would not affect the community-led campaign.
However he added that Trust members were “quite worried we may get a non-serious bid” from a rival organisation or private company to take over the building.
“It’s entirely reasonable to try and demonstrate they have left no stone unturned,” he said of the council’s latest move. He added the local community was very keen and well-placed to take over the site, as “there’s loads of initiative and creativity in Kirkstall”.
The Abbey Mills complex consists of a number of mill buildings dating back to the early 16th Century.
The mills were rebuilt after a fire in 1797 and by 1847 most of the present buildings were in existence producing corn, oil and woolen cloth.
The Kirkstall Valley Development Trust wants to turn the complex into the Future City Centre and a linked small flats development.
The fate of the mills has been a talking point for over a decade.
Coun Illingworth explained that a planning brief for the site was created in 2006 but work never got off the ground.
KVDT is hosting a walk-through of the site on Saturday, July 29 from 11.30am. Meet in the Morrisons car park.